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Electric Companies Get Ready For Potential Outages

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(credit: AP)

(credit: AP)

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BOSTON (CBS) — After getting slammed with extended outages during the ice storm in 2008, electric customers are worried about the inclement weather Tuesday.

Of most concern to the utilities is ice build up on power lines, which can weigh down trees and power lines.

WBZ News Radio’s Carl Stevens reports.

PSNH says it’s prepared for the storm by trimming tree limbs.

“We hope that’s going to pay off in a situation like this by preventing outages that may have otherwise occurred because of the weight of ice, trees, limbs and wires,” said PSNH spokesman Martin Murray.

WBZ-TV’s Ken MacLeod reports.

National Grid’s spokesman David Graves says they have additional crews, especially for western Massachusetts, if needed, including 130 forestry crews.

Unitil says it’s ready this time to respond to any trouble calls they get. The company serves about 28,000 customers in the Fitchburg area. Some of those customers were without power for two weeks in 2008.

On Tuesday, 27 line crews from Michigan to Mississippi as well as Massachusetts moved out to different locations in the Fitchburg area about an hour before the changeover to freezing rain to more quickly respond to power outage calls that might come in.

That planning is a significant change from 2008. “We’re actually working two or three days ahead of time so that, in event of weather like this, we can actually have the crews here, ready to go instead of having them in transit,” said Unitil spokesman Bill White.

Unitil spokesman Bill White says in addition to bringing line crews in early there are also better lines of communication with local officials than 2008. A new emergency operations center at Unitil’s offices is set up to rapidly field outage calls and communicate directly with local officials.

“Unitil’s done a great job I think since the lessons learned in ’08. We’ve been in touch with them, City Hall, Board of Health. As of now, we’re positioned very well, I think, to handle anything in the immediate future,” said Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Curran, Fitchburg’s Emergency Management Director.

Unitil customer Michael Sidoti went without power for 11 days in 2008. “I’m very hopeful that based on what I’ve heard, they’d (Unitil) be able to come through and we wouldn’t experience that again,” he said.

The company said, as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, it had no reports of outages.

WBZ-TV’s Ron Sanders contributed to this report.

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